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February 21, 2018

Instagram Hashtags are Now More Important than Ever: Here’s How to Make the Most of It

Instagram has recently introduced one of the biggest additions to the popular social network that we’ve seen in recent years: hashtags following. You might have noticed this while browsing your Instagram app, or read about it online. If not, it’s very exciting news: Instagram now allows users to follow specific hashtags so that they can get images and videos using the hashtag in their feed. This brings about many opportunities for those who want to boost their business on Instagram.

The question is, how proficient are you at using hashtags on Instagram?

Instagram hashtags are now more important than ever, thanks to this feature.

In fact, users might not even need to follow businesses and brands any more – they can just follow their favourite hashtags, and get more varied content. So, while it might hinder your follower growth, don’t panic yet – if you know how to use hashtags properly, you can still generate amazing results.

Here’s what you need to know about hashtags on Instagram:

Quality still trumps quantity

Hearing this news, you might be tempted to sprinkle all of your future posts with as many super popular hashtags as possible (the ones with millions of posts). But, that doesn’t mean that your posts will appear in your audiences’ feeds just because they are following the hashtags you’re using.

Instagram is conscious that this feature can bring about a lot of spamming; so, they’re going to put their algorithm to work 24/7 to weed out any spam and block their authors, as TechCrunch reports.

Additionally, TechCrunch also reported that when they asked Instagram about it, they were told that any posts that will appear in people’s feeds will be selected based on their quality and how recently they were posted.

Users are also able to control what they see in their feed, to some extent. If someone sees a post they’re not interested in on their feed, they can select “don’t show for this hashtag” so that Instagram can learn their preferences and adjust what content they see in their main feed.

What this means is that posting for the sake of posting (and using as many popular hashtags as possible) will not work to your advantage. In fact, it could even get you blocked from peoples’ feeds – so, in order to make the most of this new feature, focus first on creating quality content.

Don’t use too many hashtags just for the sake of it

With the hashtag following feature, it can be so incredibly tempting to use the full 30-hashtag allowance per post.

However, there have been many tests performed to find out the optimum number of hashtags to use – and 30 is not it. Even though some numbers and stats differ, most tests found that using around 6-11 hashtags per post can generate the most engagement on Instagram.

Because while using 30 hashtags gives you a lot of reach, it doesn’t mean that the people you reach are actually interested in your posts.

Plus, with Instagram’s algorithm for choosing which posts to feature in peoples’ feeds, using 30 hashtags might make your posts look like spam – meaning, your audience won’t be able to see them.

The most recent test I’ve found on the subject comes from Agorapulse’s Social Media Lab project, which found that using around 7-8 hashtags tends to generate the most amount of likes.

However, you should experiment with different numbers of hashtags, so that you can find out what works best for your particular account.

What’s your Instagram hashtag strategy?

At first glance, it might seem like the best hashtags to use on your posts are the most used ones, the ones with millions of posts per hashtag. After all, they do offer the biggest reach.

However, that doesn’t mean they’re the right strategy. In fact, there are several reasons why super popular hashtags might make it more difficult for your target audience to see them:

  • Using very popular hashtags means you’re reaching a very broad audience, instead of your target audience. When you use social media for marketing and business purposes, the quality of your followers and engagement is much more relevant than the quantity, because those are the people who are likely to buy from you
  • The competition is fierce for top hashtags; especially now that people can follow hashtags, the chances that your post will make it into their feeds is extremely slim, considering top hashtags have millions of posts. Even super high quality posts can get lost – with so many posts competing for the same hashtag. Only the absolute best (and the lucky) will make it in Instagram feeds.

This is not necessarily to say that you should never use super popular hashtag on your posts; ideally, try using a mix of different hashtags to extend your reach, but also get peoples’ feeds, and reach more of your target audience:

  • Maximum of 2 popular hashtags with millions of posts
  • A few middle-of-the-road hashtags, with hundreds of thousands of posts (but fewer than a million)
  • And 2-4 highly targeted, niche keywords, that will help you reach your target audience.

This way, you’re targeting different groups for different reasons; and with hashtags that have fewer posts, you stand a much better chance of people seeing your posts when following the hashtags you’ve used.

Create a branded hashtag

As I mentioned earlier in this post, the fact that people can follow hashtags can mean fewer followers for actual accounts.

Because of this, it would be wise to create a branded hashtag that’s all yours and that your audience can follow.

Your hashtag needs to be:

  • Short and sweet
  • Completely unique
  • And preferably, use (part of) your brand name in some way

Plus, you could even use it for user generated content (UGC) and encourage your fans and followers to create their own content and use the hashtag.

Conclusion

This is a very exciting new feature for Instagram marketers and business owners with an Instagram presence – but also for the users. Now, users can find great content more easily, and they won’t have to constantly search for hashtags in order to discover posts. Marketers and businesses, on the other hand, have a new way of reaching their target audience and improving their overall results from Instagram.

Just remember not to overdo it (i.e. using too many hashtags all the time, or using only very popular hashtags) and make sure that your posts are all of high quality.


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Highly regarded on the world speaker circuit, Lilach Bullock has graced Forbes and No. 10 Downing Street. She is listed in Forbes as one of top 20 women social media power influencers and was crowned Social Influencer of Europe by Oracle. She is listed as the number one Influencer in the UK by Career Experts and is a recipient for a Global Women Champions Award for her outstanding contribution and leadership in business.

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